Encouraging Children to “First Observe, Then Serve”

Parenting, LDS Quotes, Service, The Family Economy, Allowance, Chores, Money,

I mentioned on Instagram that we decided to stop the “Family Economy System” in our home, which basically consisted of paying our children for doing chores around the house so that they could learn money management skills.  I do think teaching children hard work and money management skills is VERY important, but here are the problems we ran into with the The Family Economy:

  • Our children developed an obsession with money.  Any time we asked them to help with something they would reply with “Do I get paid for that?” They were often fighting over money that was found lying around the house and they were constantly begging me to take them to the store so they could spend their money.
  • The money was not being well spent.  I know that part of learning to manage money is making spending mistakes and then learning from those mistakes, but my kids were spending 75% of their money on candy every week and the other 25% was spent on junk! (This was after they put money away for tithing and savings.) They didn’t feel bad about those purchases at all!  They thought it was awesome!
  • It made chores feel optional.  If they didn’t feel like working they would pass on the chore and getting paid, which left me to cover for them!  I want our kids to understand that they are responsible for cleaning up after themselves.  I have found that using logical consequences, like taking their toys away because they are not taking care of them, is much more effective.
  • There was a lot to keep track of and it was exhausting trying to keep on top of it all.  So many of our conversations were revolving around how much money they had earned that day and the relentless questioning of when they were getting paid next.
  • During the school year our kids are busy after school with homework, extra curricular activities and having time to play and be kids. There is not much time left for doing extra chores outside of cleaning up after themselves. (They each do a kitchen chore after dinner and have a “Zone” in the house that they are in charge of keeping picked up.)

Over all it felt like we were feeding a “What’s in it for me” mentality, rather than a “Team Work” mentality. Some would probably say that we were not running our family economy right, which could be partially true, but overall it just didn’t feel like the right fit for us. So what are we doing instead???

We have decided to focus more on rewarding service and going the extra mile.  I love this quote from Linda K. Burton, “First Observe, Then Serve.” In a college child development class I learned that children are naturally Egocentric. Looking at the needs of others and trying to fill those needs does not come naturally to them.  As I have worked with my kids on this I can see the great internal satisfaction they feel when they do kind things for others.  While we do use a reward system, which makes it not 100% selfless, it’s still much more than they would normally do on their own.  Our ultimate goal with the reward system is to help them develop the HABIT of looking outside of themselves and doing what they can to help others.

Parenting, LDS Quotes, Service, The Family Economy, Allowance, Chores, Money, Linda K. Burton

Thomas S. Monson once said, “We are surrounded by those in need of our attention, our encouragement, our support, our comfort, our kindness. … We are the Lord’s hands here upon the earth, with the mandate to serve and to lift His children. He is dependent upon each of us.” Linda K. Burton followed up this quote with these words, “For some, serving or ministering one by one, following the Savior’s example, doesn’t come easily. But with practice, each of us can become more like the Savior as we serve God’s children.”

We use a reverse sticker chart to reward our kids for their acts of service and going the extra mile.  When they have earned all of their stickers they get to go on a date of their choice with me or my husband.  This has been a great way to ensure that we are spending one on one time with each of our kids.  Another thing we like to do, but don’t always remember to do, is ask them at dinner how they served someone that day.  My school aged kids will usually come up with an example from school.  It’s fun to hear about kind interactions they are having at school that may not come up in our everyday conversations.

President James E. Faust said: “Serving others can begin at almost any age. … It need not be on a grand scale, and it is noblest within the family.”

In her talk, “The Needs Before Us,” Bonnie L. Oscarson said the following when addressing children, “Do you children realize how much it means to your parents and family members when you look for ways to serve at home? For those in your teen years, strengthening and serving your family members should be among your top priorities as you look for ways to change the world. Showing kindness and concern for your siblings and parents helps create an atmosphere of unity and invites the Spirit into the home. Changing the world begins with strengthening your own family.” Amen, right?!

Does this mean we will never pay our kids money again? No.  We still recognize the need for them to learn to manage their own finances.  We plan to focus on this during the summer months, when there is a lot of extra time and work to be done, like yard work, washing cars, etc. As they get older maybe we will even give them an allowance during the school year with which they will be required to pay for certain things. I don’t know for sure.  What I do know is that the right thing for our family right now is to focus on Observing and serving.

I encourage you to contemplate what is best for your family!  Just because something works for one family doesn’t mean it is the right fit for yours. As you are prayerful you will be guided to what is best for your family… and it may be something nobody you know has done before!

Feel free to comment and share your ideas here or on Instagram!

Parenting, LDS Quotes, Service, The Family Economy, Allowance, Chores, Money, Linda K. Burton
Encouraging Children to “First Observe, Then Serve” Why we ditched The Family Economy… For now.

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